Premature labor is also called preterm labor. It’s when your body starts getting ready for birth too early in your pregnancy. Labor is premature if it starts more than three weeks before your due date.
Prematurity can cause problems for babies all throughout their lives. The earlier a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Some of these problems may not show up for several years, even into adulthood. Finding and treating health problems as early as possible and preventing premature birth overall, can help babies lead longer, healthier lives.
For some women, the signs and symptoms of preterm labor are unmistakable. For others, they’re more subtle. During pregnancy, be on the lookout for:
- Regular or frequent painful contractions — a tightening sensation in the abdomen
- Constant low, dull backache
- A sensation of pelvic or lower abdominal pressure
- Mild abdominal cramps
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Watery vaginal discharge (water breaking) — in a gush or a trickle
- A change in vaginal discharge
Can premature birth affect a baby’s health?
Yes. Experts say premature birth can lead to long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities for babies. These are problems with how the brain works. They can cause a person to have trouble or delays in:
- Physical development
- Communicating with others
- Getting along with others
- Taking care of himself
Some long-term disabilities caused by premature birth include:
- Behavior problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (also called ADHD) and anxiety
- Neurological disorders, like cerebral palsy, that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves throughout the body
- Autism, a group of disorders that affect a child’s speech, social skills, and behavior
In the U.S., prematurity is the number one killer of babies, and those born even a few weeks early have higher rates of illness and hospitalization compared to full-term newborns. In addition to the toll on families, economic costs for prematurity are estimated at more than $26 billion annually by the National Academy of Medicine.
Since 2010, the Anthem Foundation has provided more than $4.3 million in grant funding to the March of Dimes to scale up and implement several programs that encourage and facilitate first-trimester prenatal care and help at-risk mothers commit to behaviors that reduce the numbers of low-birthweight babies. These programs include quality improvement initiatives related to the elimination of early elective deliveries, smoking cessation, Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Community Programs, groups of prenatal care model and more.
The Anthem Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Associate Giving program which provides a 50 percent match of associates’ pledges, as well as its Volunteer Time Off and Dollars for Doers community service programs.
To learn more about the Anthem Foundation, please visit http://www.anthem.foundation
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